Treating ourselves to luxury goods, whether it’s an expensive fragrance, a designer handbag or a piece of jewellery, makes us feel good. But in this booming market, not many people consider the ethics behind their purchases. “It can’t be bad if it cost so much money,” is something people say to me time and time again.
I’m sorry to break the news to you, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the jewellery sector alone, ethical concerns are rife, from the methods used to mine gold and diamonds to the sometimes dubious production practices in the Far East. They are what made me turn my back on the traditional fine jewellery industry and concentrate my efforts on creating ethical jewellery. Read more about my background in the ABOUT ME page and BIOGRAPHY page.
What ethical jewellery boils down to is traceability. If the materials used in a piece of jewellery are traceable, the buyer can make an informed choice about its provenance. Not all countries have the same stringent regulations in place, so knowing the country of origin of a precious metal or gemstone is the first step towards making an informed decision about a jewel’s ethical credentials.
Sustainability is an important consideration too. I’m sure you, like me, want that piece of jewellery you are wearing to benefit, not damage the world. From people displacement and deforestation to soil contamination and dangerous working conditions, unsustainable practices are, sadly, commonplace in the mining industry. It is therefore important to know precisely where the materials a piece of jewellery is made from originate, right down to the exact mine. The same applies in relation to where and how a piece of jewellery was manufactured. Only then will you be able to determine whether a piece of jewellery has been produced sustainably.
In recent years, Fairtrade Gold and Fairmined Gold certification systems have developed fully. Both organisations have become stronger voices in the industry, and a growing number of small jewellers, like me, are choosing to use certified fair traded gold and silver in their jewellery (unfortunately, very little platinum comes from these schemes).
Also, we are seeing more and more fair trade jewels, manufactured by communities in need, where that commercial activity is all they have. Jewellery has the power to change lives, to bring wealth to those living in poverty, and that is a very powerful message that we can all be part of.
A good place to start with all this “green talk” is the 10 principles of fair trade, as prescribed by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which I adhere to as an ethical jeweller. If you want to know more, visit their fantastic website. LINK TO WFTO WEBSITE.
For a jewel to be truly ethical, the designer will have considered all these factors, and many others besides, including how many hands the materials passed through and where it was made. A commonly used phrase when talking about ethical jewellery is “from mine to market”. This means that the journey of a piece of ethical jewellery should be direct and traceable, from the mine all the way to the customer. Read more about ethics in our BEAUTIFUL ETHICS page.
Unlike an expensive fragrance or designer handbag, jewellery is more closely associated with our emotions. We are given it to mark special occasions, usually by a loved one, or we might buy it as a treat for ourselves. Either way, a piece of jewellery is charged with feeling. This, combined with that fact that we wear it next to our skin, makes jewellery more emotive than any other luxury item.
A favourite piece of jewellery will be loved, treasured and worn time and time again, but to truly feel good about it, it has to be beautiful inside and out. Buying a piece of ethical jewellery shows that you know better. It shows that you care about the environment. On a more personal scale, it shows that you care about the people who played a part in its creation, right down to the miners – and their families – who were responsible for extracting the gold from the Earth. Ultimately, it shows that you want to make a difference with your choices, and that is a very powerful message.
Put simply, like you, I want to change the world. That is a very bold statement, I know! But I am deeply committed to it. With pressure growing from both the inside - designer like me, and outside - customers like you, the world of retail is changing. Consumers are asking questions about where their jewellery came from and designers are choosing to care. I care for the piece of jewellery that you are going to wear on your finger, which is why I can tell you precisely where the gold came from. In fact, I have visited the exact mine and watched the miners at work. I did this because I am proud of the jewellery I create and I want you to feel proud of it too – and to spread the word to everyone around you.
Join the club, let's change the world one piece of jewellery at a time!
Arabel visiting Fairmined Ecological Gold mines in La Llanada, Colombia